Pregame Shootaround: Two top-25 matchups in the Big 12 leads a big day of college hoops

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 11 Kansas at No. 17 Texas, 2:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s weekend preview:

Prior to the season, these two teams looked like they would be the two best teams in the Big 12. They still might be the two best teams in the league, which is what makes this game so important. If Texas wants to have a real shot of winning the conference title this season, they have to be able to pick off the Jayhawks at home, the same building where West Virginia just lost by 27 points. But Kansas is finally starting to get some good play out of Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, which means that they might just be peaking at the right time.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 19 Oklahoma at No. 21 Baylor, 6:00 p.m.

Also from Rob’s preview:

I’m still not ready to fully buy-in on the Bears. While I think they’re an NCAA tournament team, I’m not convinced they’re much more than that; Oklahoma as a shot to win one of the two league titles and make a run to the Final Four. I’m not sure Baylor can do that. But for the Sooners, they’re not going to be winning much of anything if they don’t start playing better outside of Norman.

UPSET WATCH: No. 25 Iowa at Purdue, 12:00 p.m.

Iowa needs to rally from a pathetic display earlier this week in a 32-point road loss at Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes looked like they didn’t want anything to do with a tough Big Ten game on the road and Purdue’s fans aren’t going to make it any easier on Iowa on Saturday. Purdue, meanwhile, could also use a bounce-back performance after a flat performance against Illinois.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Stephen F. Austin at Sam Houston State, 5:30 p.m.

This is one of the better games of the weekend, let alone the mid-major ranks. Both teams are unbeaten in the Southland and Stephen F. Austin is riding a 14-game winning streak while Sam Houston State owns a nine-game win streak. The Lumberjacks went perfect in the conference last season and are looking to stay on top of the league, but Sam Houston has stayed right with them so far in 2014-15 and could make it tough for Stephen F. Austin to repeat. We might even be talking about the Southland as a potential two-bid league if both of these teams continue to win and play each other three times this season.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR: 

  • No. 1 Kentucky goes on the road to face South Carolina and this could be a tough one for the Wildcats. The Gamecocks got the best of them last season at home and Kentucky has faced some stiff tests in the SEC so far. South Carolina’s talented guards could give the Wildcats a game here.
  • West Virginia has been a pain to deal with on the defensive end but they’ve faltered a bit recently in Big 12 play. The No. 18 Mountaineers will look for a season sweep of TCU at home to avoid three losses in their last four games.
  • Three top-ten teams — No. 9 Iowa State, No. 7 Arizona, No. 6 Wisconsin — have conference road games against bottom-feeders — Texas Tech, Cal and Michigan — on Saturday. These are the types of games that become upsets seemingly out of nowhere. It wouldn’t be surprising to see one or more of these games go down to the wire.
  • North Carolina has played well recently with two big wins in the ACC, but they’re banged up going into today’s home clash with Florida State. Freshman guard Theo Pinson is out with a broken bone in his left foot, while reserve guards Nate Britt (lacerated lip) and Joel Berry II (groin) are also not healthy and might not play. Let’s see how the Tar Heels respond with a shorter rotation.
  • A really intriguing ACC battle as Miami travels to Syracuse. The Orange are 5-1 in conference play but haven’t faced many of the conference’s better teams yet. This should be a nice test to see where Syracuse stands, as Miami has tested themselves with a tough non-conference schedule while already winning at Duke and playing N.C. State.

THE TOP 25

  • Pacific at No. 3 Gonzaga, 8:00 p.m.
  • Richmond at No. 22 Dayton, 7:00 p.m.

OTHER GAMES TO WATCH

  • DePaul at Xavier, 12:00 p.m.
  • Oklahoma State at Kansas State, 12:00 p.m.
  • Tulsa at East Carolina, 12:00 p.m.
  • Wake Forest at Clemson, 12:00 p.m.
  • Rutgers at Penn State, 12:00 p.m.
  • Texas A&M at Tennessee, 1:00 p.m.
  • Arkansas at Missouri, 2:00 p.m.
  • Illinois at Minnesota, 2:15 p.m.
  • Georgetown at Marquette, 2:30 p.m.
  • Georgia at Mississippi State, 3:00 p.m.
  • New Mexico at Wyoming, 4:00 p.m.
  • UCLA at Oregon, 4:00 p.m.
  • Michigan State at Nebraska, 4:00 p.m.
  • Houston at SMU, 6:00 p.m.
  • USC at Oregon State, 6:00 p.m.
  • LSU at Vanderbilt, 6:00 p.m.
  • Florida at Ole Miss, 6:00 p.m.
  • Memphis at Tulane, 8:00 p.m.
  • Washington State at Colorado, 8:00 p.m.
  • Auburn at Alabama, 8:30 p.m.
  • San Diego State at Colorado State, 10:00 p.m.
  • Arizona State at Stanford, 12:00 a.m.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.